Update on fishing for black and white teatfish in the Torres Strait

4 September 2020

Black and white teatfish are species listed under the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) Appendix II. The listing took effect on 28 August 2020.  This means that the species can only be exported under a CITES export permit, issued by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (the Department) under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). 

 A CITES export permit can only be issued if a positive non-detriment finding has been made for that species.  A positive non-detriment finding means that the level of take of that species has been found to not be detrimental to or contribute to trade which is detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild. Non-detriment finding assessments are made by the country’s CITES Scientific Authority, in Australia that is the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment.

On 28 August 2020 the Delegate of the Minister for the Environment amended the conditions of the current wildlife trade operation (WTO) declaration for the fishery to allow for the export of these two CITES listed species taken in the Fishery.

The new conditions require the Protected Zone Joint Authority (PZJA) amongst other things, to limit the take of black and white teatfish to:

  • Black teatfish 0 tonnes
  • White teatfish 15 tonnes

The total take prescribed in the new conditions were found by the Department to be non-detrimental to the species.

These conditions are in place until the current WTO expires on 17 December 2020.  Between now and the expiry date, future take of these species from the fishery will be reassessed as part of the reassessment of this fishery as a WTO under the EPBC Act.

More information on export permits can be found on the Departments website or by emailing wps [at] awe.gov.au. 

The Fishery’s WTO can also be found on the Federal Register of Legislation website.  

Trial re-opening for black teatfish

The PZJA met on 27 August 2020 and agreed to a trial opening subject to a 20 tonne Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and requirement of daily landing and reporting to AFMA of catch through the mandatory fish receiver system.

The PZJA agreed for Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) to set the date of the opening noting advice from industry was for the opening to occur in April 2020.  The PZJA recognised that the date for the opening would be subject to impacts of the COVID 19 pandemic on AFMA’s ability to communicate and monitor arrangements for an opening.

To meet this deadline AFMA will work with the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment to seek an amendment to the Fishery’s WTO to increase the TAC of black teatfish and will begin meetings with stakeholders to explain arrangements for the re-opening.  AFMA also wishes to understand any additional voluntary measures traditional owners wish to adopt to reinforce cultural laws with respect to who can fish and where during the opening.

Download the letter sent to Beche-de-mer Fishery stakeholders for more information on the PZJA decision to convene a black teatfish opening and the CITES Appendix II listing of black and white teatfish.